When Your Childhood Insecurity is Actually Body Dysmorphia

When Your Childhood Insecurity is Actually Body Dysmorphia

When do vanity and insecurity go too far?
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The sides of my face didn’t match. From the front, I appeared normal enough, and my left profile was passable, but the right belonged to someone else. Nostril flaring out too much, bridge of my nose rising forward like a jagged stone mountain, massive cheek swirled with pink blotches.

Why did this patchwork rag doll have to be my own reflection? Was it the result of a birth defect, an accident while I was in utero?

I couldn’t blame my parents for my seemingly deformed physical attributes. I was adopted as an infant and had never seen a single soul who looked like me.

In elementary school, I’d agonize over my hair, wondering why it didn’t flow full and thick like other girls.’ It just fell limp, like straw. Straw hair to go with the mismatched, ragdoll face.

Whenever I wasn’t obsessing over my hair, I’d zero in on another feature, some new hamartia of my outward appearance I hadn’t noticed before. I remember thinking, what will be next? After I get over my nose/skin/hair, what’s the next obsession to monopolize my thoughts, spin circles around me like a gnat?

I use to hide behind a curtain of my hair so people couldn’t see the blotchy rosacea on my right cheek. I remember being nominated “the 3rd ugliest girl in class.” I wanted to claw out of my own skin.

How do you know what you look like? How does anyone know what they look like? Every time I’d look in the mirror, I’d appear as someone different. Every time someone took my picture, my chest filled with dread. I was a grotesque creature. A shape-shifting deformity. I knew it stemmed from self-absorption, but I couldn’t stop. Every reflective surface held a mystery.

By middle school, my fixations turned to my body. I remember doodling myself in my 6th-grade chorus binder—giant head, hair like a fistful of yarn, noodle arms, towering too tall for my age. At the time, I perceived myself as far too thin. Other girls could be stick-skinny and still look good, but not me. It wasn’t even so much my weight, as it was my shape. Abnormal.

It hurt all the worse feeling like I was alone in this. Other girls worried about being too fat, other girls got anorexic. “Real women have curves,” they said, but what about the rest of us? I was the only one too awkward and too thin, in my mind. An outcast, a walking deformity.

By high school, I’d gained weight and my self-perception of thinness vanished. It was the second semester of freshman year, and I sat on the passenger side of my mom’s car as she drove me home from school.

I noticed my face in the side mirror. Eyes dark and too serious. Pouting unintentionally. My head leaned back lazily against the seat and I was struck by the size of my face, my double chin spilling out from under it.

How'd I not noticed this before? I already knew I wasn’t skinny anymore, but god, how’d I missed that thick roll framing my chin and jawline?

It was yet another moment of insecurity welling up to drown out everything else. Then a succession of moments like that. And then the need to do away with yourself, to check off the days with steady discipline, punishing your body for its own existence.

I’d joke years later that my double chin was half the reason I’d ever been anorexic. I used to subtly reach up and trace beneath my chin with my fingers. At first, it served as motivation, a reminder: you do not need to eat. You’ve gone too far already and you have to correct it.

Then it was a checkpoint, a mile-marker: one day it was gone, all I’d felt was jawbone and skin, the curve of my chin down to my neck. It became yet another miniscule obsession, one of many places on my body I needed to check and re-check, to run my hands along, to feel the bone.

After four years of yo-yo dieting, at age nineteen my body dysmorphia changed forms again, sneaky as a chameleon. Its words were different, but the deeper message the same.

It was January of 2013, and I’d forgotten what it felt like to be warm. My weight dipped ever lower. I’d stopped wearing bras because I couldn’t stand the way it puckered out the little bit of flesh when the band clasped around my torso. In the back of mind, I recognized the irony: I was too skinny to even have boobs anymore. I didn’t need a bra, yet still felt too fat to wear one.

I couldn’t wear certain fabrics because of their texture, how it’d feel against my ribs, or against any bit of flesh, I felt the need to shed immediately. I couldn’t stand it when anyone touched my back or my sides. Only I could, and I did so constantly. Discreetly running my hands up and down my ribs, making certain I could feel their entire cage rippling under my skin.

This was when the body dysmorphia surfaced the clearest to me. I became a pawn in my game of control. Every move I made revolved around this objective. Preventing myself from bingeing, straining to hold up the peace in my family, keeping them in the dark, even as my physical heart began to suffer from the effects of my starvation. And then the game owned me.

I landed in the hospital, where I gained back most of the weight. In the days leading up to my admittance; however, I had some revelations. I started to let myself smile again. I painted my lips with color. The light shifted in the mirror.

Words popped out of the void and filled my head, repeating again and again. Control. Balance. Healing. I didn’t know what they meant at first, but they became a mantra. These were the things I could gain when I realized my own worth. They were like planets in my orbit. But they’d always been lopsided, out-of-sync, or downright lost in the darkness.

I began to explore the events in my life that had impacted me so deeply, so irrevocably. I even considered my adoption and its effect on my self-perception and some of my past behavioral patterns.

It’s hard to describe how things changed, how I finally saw myself as a person and not a walking deformity. My insecurity still exists, but it’s no longer all-consuming, literally—it doesn’t eat away at my muscles and wear down my heart, anymore.

I continue to live with shifting mirrors, photographs that haunt me—shadows, shapes, and colors sprawling into my semblance. The right side of my face still looks like a stranger sometimes, like a mismatched puzzle piece. But these days, more often than not, I can see that it really is me. And that it’s okay.

Cover Image Credit: Bekah Russom // Unsplash

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An Open Letter To The Girl Trying To Get Healthy Again

"I see you eating whatever you want and not exercising" - Pants
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Dear girl trying to get back in shape,

I know it's hard. I know the hardest thing you may do all day is walk into the gym. I know how easy it is to want to give up and go eat Chicken McNuggets, but don't do it. I know it feels like you work so hard and get no where. I know how frustrating it is to see that person across the table from you eat a Big Mac every day while you eat your carrots and still be half of your size. I know that awful feeling where you don't want to go to the gym because you know how out of shape you are. Trust me, I know.

SEE ALSO: To The Girl Trying To Lose Weight In College


The important thing is you are doing something about it. I'm sure you get mad at yourself for letting your body get this out of shape, but life happens. You have made a huge accomplishment by not having a soda in over a month, and those small changes are huge. I understand how hard it is, I understand how frustrating it is to not see results and I understand why you want to give up. Being healthy and fit takes so much time. As much as I wish you could wake up the day after a good workout with the 6 pack of your dreams, that just isn't the reality. If being healthy was easy, everyone would do it, and it wouldn't feel so good when you got there.

Remember how last January your resolution was to get back in the gym and get healthy again? Think about how incredible you would look right now if you would have stuck with it. The great thing is that you can start any time, and you can prove yourself wrong.

Tired of starting over? Then don't give up.

You are only as strong as your mind. You will get there one day. Just be patient and keep working.

Nothing worth having comes easy. If you want abs more than anything, and one day you woke up with them, it wouldn't be nearly as satisfying as watching your body get stronger.

Mental toughness is half the battle. If you think you are strong, and believe you are strong, you will be strong. Soon, when you look back on the struggle and these hard days, you will be so thankful you didn't give up.

Don't forget that weight is just a number. What is really important is how you feel, and that you like how you look. But girl, shout out to you for working on loving your body, because that shit is hard.

To the girl trying to get healthy again, I am so proud of you. It won't be easy, it will take time. But keep working out, eating right, and just be patient. You will be amazed with what your body is capable of doing.

Cover Image Credit: Stock Snap

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How To Survive Your First Flu At ISU

Being away from your parents can be tough when you get sick, but here's a short how-to guide of what to do when you catch the flu.

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Going away to college can be tough, especially if you're used to being at home and having someone to take care of you when you get sick. Now I don't know about the rest of you but when I get sick I turn into a needy childish mess of a person who wants her mom to make her soup and bring her juice and medicine. But, being about a two-hour drive away from home I can no longer rely on my mom to take care of me. So, you would assume that my first option is to just lay in bed and sleep all day until I don't feel sick anymore. Unfortunately, I have tried that, and I can assure you that it's not a valid way to get better anytime soon. So, in this article, I am going to explain how you can get healthy quicker and skip fewer classes.

Step one to any sickness is staying hydrated, you should drink a lot of water, tea, and juice. The water helps flush toxins out of your body, the tea helps soothe your sore throat, and the juice provides vitamins and antioxidants. You will need all of these things in order to feel better as soon as possible.

Step two is to stay in bed and sleep, getting rest can help your body heal a lot quicker than you think. It's not a good thing to skip classes but if you can skip a class and use that time to rest and heal you won't have to skip as many classes in the future because of a sickness that lasts for multiple days or even weeks.

Step three is to remember to eat, when you feel achy and sore from being sick and laying in bed you will not want to go get food but it's important to remember to eat when you're sick especially things like hot soup and crackers. Even if you feel absolutely terrible you have to remember to eat, which might mean asking your roommate to bring you a to-go box and offering to repay the favor at a later time.

Step four is to take a nice hot shower, the steam from the hot water can help open up your sinuses which will relieve your runny or stuffy nose as well as relieving your sore throat.

Step five is remembering to email your professors and let them know that you are sick, this will help you to keep up in your classes and prevent your grades from dropping due to absence. Another helpful tip is to text a friend from your class to get a copy of the notes from class.

Hopefully, this short article will help you to handle your first serious sickness away from home, and if you're still feeling sick after trying all of these things make sure you schedule an appointment at the student health center located in the student health services building across the street from the Bone Student center.

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